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This is one of a series of excerpts from older articles put online by John Ray as a public service. The articles concerned are in general otherwise available only by special request to a University or other major library.

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1984, vol. 47, No. 1, 26-39

Social Encoding and Subsequent Attitudes, Impressions, and Memory: "Context-Driven" and Motivational Aspects of Processing



E. Tory Higgins; C. Douglas McCann

New York University; Ohio State University

We examined the impact of social context and personal motivation on people's verbal descriptions of another person and the temporal consequences of such descriptions on the encoders' subsequent impressions, memories, and evaluations of the person. High and low authoritarian subjects described stimulus information about another person for an audience who had either equal status or higher status than the subjects and who purportedly either liked or disliked the stimulus peison. Either a few minutes or two weeks after communication, we asked subjects to reproduce the original stimulus information and to give their own impressions of and attitudes toward the stimulus person. As predicted, high authoritarians were more likely than low authoritarians to distort their description of the stimulus person to suit their audience's attitude when the audience had higher status, whereas both high and low authoritarians tailored their descriptions to suit the audience when the audience had equal status. Also as predicted, there was a tendency for subjects' own memory, impressions and evaluations of the stimulus person to be more positive after describing the stimulus person information for a positive attitude audience than for a negative attitude audience. The results suggest that people have a tendency to use their audience-tailored description of a stimulus person as a basis for their subsequent judgments and recall of the stimulus person without sufficiently accounting for the context-biased nature of the description and that for high authoritarians' recallthis tendency increased significantly over time. We discuss the need to consider the "context-driven" aspect of social information processing, and its interaction with chronic personal goals, in models of person perception and interpersonal communication. .


COMMENT BY JOHN RAY

The authors used the Byrne Balanced F scale as their measure of authoritarianism and students as subjects. The study shows that high authoritarians were more FLEXIBLE in response to their audience.




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